Is Cohabitation prior to marriage right?
In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, "You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along." About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.
So, here we have a lot of couples that believe yes, this is a "good" idea - "let's live together and see how we fit. If it doesn't work out it's not like we're married, and we can then end it."
However, there is an undercurrent of assumptions and misinformation about what will be the true outcome of cohabitation.
Here are two things that many believe:
1. "It helps economically"
Yes, on its head it would seem that living together would save each of the partners money by splitting everything - rent, groceries, utilities, etc. But that's where a problem precisely comes into play. Cohabiting couples enter the relationship without a financial commitment to each other.
Sociological research in the 1990s suggests that these couples fail to develop realistic financial goals. The free-spending habits of one partner during cohabitation may be perfectly acceptable, even pleasing to the other. Once married, that may not be the case. They have not "practiced" the saving for a life together - a house payment, house repairs, raising a child, etc.
According to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and their study of over 100 couples who had lived together, married, and divorced after 5 years, "the majority had discussed only in the most general terms and infrequently, prior to the wedding, sensitive issues like finances, careers, leisure activities and children." (1)
2. "It makes people happy"
Couples living together would seem, according to our society, free and clear of any problems. They have dual income, no children, and are free to do what they want with no commitment.
Commitment yet again creeps up here - "In an effort to avoid troublesome confrontation, dishonesty, untruthfulness and inauthenticity may creep into relationships with others, including and above all, parents."(1) When asked questions by their family, then tend to be inauthentic about their relationship with the significant other. Mothers love to ask the question, "So when are you gonna marry this girl already?" We"ve all heard it.
Now, is it just a question of religiosity? No. "Even when taking into account religiosity, people who cohabited were more likely to divorce than those who didn"t cohabitate prior to marriage."(3)
It would seem that since you are over at their place a lot, and they are over at yours, you should live together. This is what researchers call ""sliding, not deciding." Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.
Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment."(2) Each partner has what"s called a "sunk cost", where they"ve invested time, energy, and money into this relationship, so it feels "natural" that they should get married. Whereas if they DIDN"T live together they would have MORE of an opportunity to meet other people. This is the definition of the "freedom" of living together, right? You want to see if the other person fits, without a ring.
In conclusion, living together just doesn"t look as rosy from inside the relationship as it does out.
It seems to me that Con is arguing a case for marrying before or while in the process of living together, without actually touching on the pros of such conditions, and rather highlighting the cons of the alternative. It stands to reason that the least practical decision in this case is the "wrong" decision, so I will argue that living together before marriage is more practical than the alternative.
"Couples living together would seem, according to our society, free and clear of any problems. They have dual income, no children, and are free to do what they want with no commitment."
Interesting statement, considering many couples in our society share one income, have children, and indeed have numerous problems. Regardless, all couples that live together share responsibility of some kind (thus have some form of commitment). Marriage doesn't magically change one's habits, so it is logically practical that a couple should see how they work together before marriage. In this way, living together is a litmus test of cooperation. If a couple works well together, marriage won't necessarily change that. If they don't work well, they will either cut off their arrangement or marry anyway. This creates the problem of a married couple that can't function properly - a problem that marrying before cohabitating does not solve.
Under this set of circumstances, couples have a chance to see if they work well together or not, and may in turn avoid a dysfunctional relationship. Some couples, of course, will slip through the cracks.
Any couples that marry before living together, however, must deal with the results of the same test while married. As a married couple, there are expectations placed on them that, for all they know, they may not be able to meet - in other words, they already decided that they would work well together without any real experience.
This demonstrates a boon of cohabitating before marriage as opposed to after. But most couples, according to this video source, don't cohabitate as a test to see if they should get married - they simply do it to spend more time together. Once we fully understand the implications of this information (many couples don't even plan on getting married, for instance), we see that cohabitation before marriage on the whole is far more practical than the alternative.
P.S. - Con, your links just lead to home pages.
Here's the correct links for Argument 1:
My statement: "Many couples in our society share one income, have children, and indeed have numerous problems. Regardless, all couples that live together share responsibility of some kind (thus have some form of commitment)."
Yes, I should've stated that they have some commitment. Sorry, I thought that was assumed. I tend to wear Doc Martins a lot, so I have some form of commitment to that. It's not the type of commitment, it's what the couple is committed to. No, marriage doesn't magically change one's habits, but a huge piece of your mindset does.
"Words matter. They deeply affect us and others. Living with your 'boyfriend' is not the same as living with your 'husband.' And living with your 'girlfriend' or any other title you give her is not the same as making a home with your 'wife.' Likewise when you introduce that person as your wife or husband to people, you are making a far more important statement of that person's role in your life than you are with any other title." (4) Even the legality of the "piece of paper" creates a huge commitment. You are now legally bound to this person, an "announcement to him/her and to yourself that you take this relationship with the utmost seriousness. No words of affection or promises of commitment, no matter how sincere, can match the seriousness of legal commitment." (4)
Your statement: "Couples have a chance to see if they work well together or not, and may in turn avoid a dysfunctional relationship...But most couples, according to this video source, don't cohabitate as a test to see if they should get married - they simply do it to spend more time together. "
A cohabiting couple is ALREADY a dysfunctional relationship if they have never committed to marry, as stated by my first argument. In your video link Dr. Curtis suggests that living together is "time bound". Couples have a chance to see at the end of the year lease if they work together, as a "comfortable break point". However, it's healthier for a couple NEVER to look at the relationship with an end in sight; it becomes a means to an end, not a commited life together. I'm trying to drive home the point that the sole purpose for any couple in love is to give the ultimate self-giving love (marriage).
Your statement: "it is logically practical that a couple should see how they work together before marriage. In this way, living together is a litmus test of cooperation."
It's not practical at all according to Journal of Family Issues. "cohabiting couples ranked a list of reasons for cohabitation. More than 60 percent of participants ranked spending more time together as the number-one reason for moving in, followed by nearly 19 percent who put 'it made most sense financially' at the top of their list, and 14 percent ranking "I wanted to test out our relationship before marriage" highest.
Those who listed "testing" as the primary move-in reason were more likely than others to score high on measures of negative communication, such as, 'My partner criticizes or belittles my opinions, feelings, or desires.' Such testers also had lower confidence in the quality and stability of their relationships." (5) "No one can simulate self-giving. Half a commitment is no commitment. Cohabiting couples are likely to have one foot out the door, throughout the relationship. The members of a cohabiting couple practice holding back on one another. They rehearse not trusting." (6)
Living together proves it's a dangerous place that plays with both partners' emotions. It's not just an end of the lease when it ends. It ends the couple.
The impracticality you are referring to is ambiguous. From what I see, your source says 19% of cohabiting couples are more likely to communicate negatively. I'm afraid these statistics don't indicate that cohabiting is the systemic problem.
"Couples have a chance to see at the end of the year lease if they work together, as a "comfortable break point". However, it's healthier for a couple NEVER to look at the relationship with an end in sight"
The mentality that a couple should never consider breaking up is seriously flawed. This type of thing results in dysfunctional relationships that don't end. If a couple wants to stay together, they don't have to tell themselves that they will be together forever - they don't even have to talk about breaking up. A couple that doesn't want to stay together should - get ready - not stay together.
Dr. Curtis isn't suggesting that a happy couple get together at the end of the year lease and discuss if they want to end their relationship. That is absurd and unrealistic. He is saying that an unhappy couple doesn't have to stay bound together - they can go their separate ways once their lease (a financial commitment) is up. Pro seems to think that staying unhappily married is better than being happy and unmarried.
"A cohabiting couple is ALREADY a dysfunctional relationship if they have never committed to marry, as stated by my first argument."
This claim is simply not valid. There are many couples that live together, are not married, and yet are not dysfunctional. Many couples are not right for each other regardless of whether or not they are married. Marriage does not so drastically alter the terms of a relationship that a couple, being unmarried, is dysfuntional, while the same couple, being married, is not. The only differences between a married couple and an unmarried couple are their titles and financial responsibilities.
Many couples don't plan on getting married. In these cases, obviously getting married before living together is impractical to their goals. There is a large group of people that your resolution does not apply to.
It is simply impractical to commit to a relationship you have no way of knowing will last. It is far more practical to live together before taking on the financial commitments that marriage demands. That a couple is married does not necessitate that they make more than financial commitments. Two friends can get married for strictly financial reasons - this doesn't turn their relationship into a funtioning romantic commitment. Couples can just as easily choose to avoid commitments when they are married.
Conversely, cohabiting before marriage does not necessitate that each partner not be committed to the relationship. A functional cohabiting couple has emotional commitments, financial commitments, commitments to fidelity, spatial commitments, time-related commitments and habitual commitments - these are myriad commitments that couples can choose to make without getting married.
To begin, here are a few of your statements last round:
“Many couples don't plan on getting married.
“emotional commitments, financial commitments, commitments to fidelity...[are] commitments that couples can choose to make without getting married.”
"The only differences between a married couple and an unmarried couple are their titles and financial responsibilities."
“There are many couples that live together, are not married, and yet are not dysfunctional.”
This is a discussion about getting married. Yet all these statements show the end goal NOT being marriage. The ultimate goal in all of this is to get married, correct? And to reach that ultimate goal in the right way. You've stated many ways where a couple can live together and be just as happy as a married couple. What's the point of marriage? Marriage forms society.
This next article is used because it contains a good deal on what I want to get across. This study was called "Cohabitation and Marriage: How Are They Related?" The Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family. Anne-Marie Ambert, brings together the results of hundreds of research papers that examined the social, emotional and financial effects of cohabitation and marriage on men, women, children and society.
“63% of women whose first relationship had been cohabitational had separated. This compared to 33% of women who had married first.”
“experience of the less committed cohabitation shapes subsequent marital behavior”
“couples who had cohabited before marriage had much higher rates of premarital violence than those who had not lived together. This premarital violence then leads to higher rates of marital violence, another factor related to divorce.”
“couples who cohabit are less religious than those who marry without prior cohabitation.” (I know this is not important to you, but it is very important to me)
"those who cohabit are generally more approving of divorce as a solution to marital problems"
“Physical abuse is also more likely and young children in cohabiting relationships are more likely to be injured or killed by their mother's live-in boyfriend than in biological families. Girls, for their part, are at higher risk of being sexually abused.”
Finally, your phrase seeing “the only differences between a married couple and an unmarried couple are their titles and financial responsibilities" is fairly insulting for the loads that see the struggles and challenges of marriage as equal to that of roommates. Married couples deserve better, and living together puts an added diversion on an already fragile institution.
Thanks for the debate! I enjoyed it.
Furthermore, Pro seems to have dodged my point about unmarried couples' capacity for commitment by assuming I wasn't talking about future married couples. Before couples marry, there is an equal capacity for them to make the commitments that I listed as there is after they marry. Cohabiting before marriage doesn't prevent such commitments in either case.
Say hypothetically there is exacty one couple that is cohabiting, planning on getting married, and is perfectly happy. There is absolutely nothing about their cohabitation that necessitates an obstacle to a happy marriage. Still, Pro's resolution assumes their actions are wrong, regardless of the reality. It doesn't apply in this case, so it doesn't apply in any case (and in fact there are many cases in which it doesn't apply).
Clearly Pro believes unmarried couples are in some way lesser than married ones:
"Finally, your phrase seeing "the only differences between a married couple and an unmarried couple are their titles and financial responsibilities" is fairly insulting for the loads that see the struggles and challenges of marriage as equal to that of roommates. Married couples deserve better, and living together puts an added diversion on an already fragile institution."
This reminds me of "doublethink": first you say that the claim, "there is little difference between a married couple and an unmarried couple" is insulting, somehow particularly to those "that see the struggles and challenges of marriage as equal to that of roommates." Then you go on to say, "Married couples deserve better" (presumably, better than unmarried couples). This is like saying, "In and of themselves, profane words are insulting to people who see words as only having meaning in context. People who don't curse deserve better." It's a contradiction and non sequitur.
The reason I bring this up is that it seems to mean that Pro thinks marriage is good period. He thinks that if a couple marries before cohabiting, they will be rescuing their relationship. This is simply not true.
I submit to you that most combinations of people don't work well as couples. Since most modern couples are more liberal about whether or not they should stay together, we are bound to see more married couples divorcing. The problem isn't living together before marrying - as I said before, marriage doesn't transform a dysfunctional couple into a functional one - the problem is that many couples are simply incompatible.
The majority of Pro's argument seems to be from statistics, i.e. cohabiting before marriage is wrong because it's more likely to end in divorce. I can throw out a similar argument: Living is wrong because it's 100% likely to end in death. As I said above, these statistics are to be expected; obviously, most people who marry before cohabiting have a different, likely more traditional mindset than people who don't. This is an outward symptom of an inward condition, and mimicking the symptoms of a mindset does not a condition make - can we not reword the same statistics as "incompatible couples are more likely to cohabit before marriage"?
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